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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A trattoria: how low can one go?

The day: April 3rd 2007, Dinner.
The place: Near Trento, IT (you don't want to know the full address)
The venue: Maso Cantanghel

Closest airports: you can't be serious!
The food:
Fine dining, It ain’t
The drinks: Interesting list, mainly regional, several national and some other choices, dedicated list for little known or endangered grape types, hardly any choice by the glass.

Just further up the hills out of Trento is this trattoria, once linked to the adjacent vineyards that produce a reputable wine. We went expecting simple, genuine and well prepared food at reasonable prices as we have come to expect in this wonderful region in this type of establishment. Let see what happened instead...

A promising arrival: the dining room is nice, elegant and cosy, almost more fine restaurant than trattoria, and very welcoming

The bread is there already: two types, one fluffy white, the other more rustic in character.

There is only a set menu at €33, no other choice whatever. With this 'chef' (Signora Gius) you must have it all.

The first item is a trout.

Plain terrible. Similar to, and in fact worse than, the trout from a university canteen. Dry, carelessly cooked, seemingly frozen and defrosted, most likely re-heated, upon pressure of the knife a pool of (slightly too acidic) olive oil surfaces. The salad would have been passable, had it not been for the excess oil and salt. A disaster.

Next, we get a veal 'salmistrato' with potato mash.

The beef was possibly the highlight. The potato mash was a gluey mess the like of which we had not encountered for many years. No self-respecting canteen would dare serve anything like it. Just plain awful, the thought will remain unfortunately with us for some time. Brrr…

Next up were bread and beet gnocchi.

This time the advertised butter was hardly detectable. The main flavour was some kind of undistinguishable ‘vegetable stock’. The taste of the beet was far too deep buried in starch to make itself recognised. Again, salt, salt everywhere.

Next again, meats (pork roll and sausage):

It would have been a disappointment had we not dramatically adjusted our expectations downwards. The pork roll was a sorry, tired, bone dry piece of meat with a tasteless filling: perhaps we do not want to know what was inside. And the sausage: tasteless bar for some fennel seeds, which in view of what it could have been, was quite a bonus. The cabbage was possibly the best bit of the dish, as even the polenta was below par, a pretty rare event around here.

Finally the hazelnut ice-cream.

This was good indeed. Pity it arrived melted, as the cook had decided we had to be in sync with the next table. So, melted it had to be!

Petit fours:

Reasonable, too: we did not venture for all, but the cofeee meringue baci di dama and the ovis mollis were very decent. The chocolate truffle tasted a bit stale.

There was a breakneck speed of service, as if the kitchen wanted the six guests out as soon as possible, but the very nice waiter was full of information about wine, and leaflets too. Except for the sweet part, we had a desperately awful meal at Maso Cantanghel, a trattoria that imposes on you an entire menu, badly prepared and overpriced, for which the quantity can never make up for the lack of quality. There are far far better choices in this category, for example Il Libertino in town and especially I Due Camini in Baselga di Pine’.


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